Art Market Italy: Bibliopathos presents Old Masters, books
After ten years as antique book dealers and an art gallery, Bibliopathos started in 2013 an auction house. Since the beginning of this activity, Bibliopathos has already held six auctions, and in July three more are scheduled. On July 9, Bibliopathos will hold in Turin an auction of Old Master paintings consisting of 59 lots (24 paintings and engravings and drawings for the rest), with estimates ranging between €500 and €100,000. It includes works by great masters from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, but also some minor works with more affordable prices for new collectors.
The two most important pieces are the “Lamentation over the Dead Christ” by Bassano, which once belonged to the royal of Spain King Felipe V and his wife Isabel and was published in the official catalog of their collections (lot 2, estimate €80,000-100,000), and the “Sacrifice of Isaac” by Giulio Cesare Procaccini, a recently discovered autograph work (lot 10, estimate €100,000-120,000). Other important paintings are the Madonna by Van Orley, also signed (lot 18, estimate €25,000-30,000), and “Leda and the Swan,” a painting on panel from the mid-sixteenth century in excellent condition attributed to the Flemish painter Sellaer (lot 13, estimate €70,000-90,000). “For lovers of music,” specialist Antonello Privitera recommends, “there are also two beautiful paintings on this subject: “Allegory of Music” by Van Ehrenstrahl (lot 3, estimate €20,000-25,000) and “Young Lady Playing the Lute” by Backhuyzen, signed and dated (lot 1, estimate €20,000-30,000).”
On July 10, instead, in Verona, Bibliopathos will hold two auctions of books. One is dedicated to Renaissance books, with rare specimens such as lot 104, Henricus Petrus’ “Mikropresbutikon,” a collection of apocryphal texts of the Early Church, which show its links with the pagan culture (estimate €2,000-3,000). The other one is an auction of “Ghosts” books – books which were unknown to librarians, universities and collectors. There will be 33 examples, including a 1498 missal printed on vellum (lot 16, estimate €40,000-50,000), and the only circulating manuscript of the “Picatrix,” a book of Arabian magic, never printed as forbidden and known as “the stairway to hell.”
“The market for antique books, in Italy and abroad, has changed enormously in recent years,” Antonello Privitera says. “There is increasing attention to the splendid specimens, possibly in their first edition. Moreover, the interest of collectors has moved—but this already for twenty years or so— more and more toward science books. I see this trend almost as a consequence of what happens in the present: the spirit of the time is more technologic and more willingly to rely on science for the search of the truth rather than on philosophy or the thought.”
And the art market in general? “The trend is definitely on the rise compared to previous years,” Privitera says, “even though the market has shrunk already for the past five or six years. There is an attention on the part of the customers only to works of quality, partly due to the uncertainty given by the general world economic situation but also, in my opinion, to a greater awareness on the part of collectors, which has developed also from the enormous range of works of art and antique books available online.”
As an auction house, Bibliopathos stands for a policy of zero or low fees for the buyer. “According to our philosophy, in fact, it is especially the seller who must bear the cost and pay for the services of the auction house. We do not want to burden those who are already exposing themselves to the purchase.” Their policy was welcomed by the buyers and the percentage of sales were above 50%.
Other features of the auction house are: first, they do not offer too many lots in order not to tire collectors and in order to devote themselves more to cataloging and exhibiting the works; secondly, they provide catalogs which are extremely rich in information, so that even those who do not know art can get an idea.
If Bibliopathos’ specialization is currently on Antique books and manuscripts and Old Masters paintings, in the future the plan is to open new departments, with special attention to contemporary art and Russian art.
“The decision to offer contemporary art is for adherence to our times,” Privitera says. “It speak a language that has great expressive power, and I think it is right to run it alongside ancient and modern art.
Russian art, especially the Avant-garde, but also Soviet art, is my personal passion and I also believe that, together with attention to emerging authors, it is an excellent ground for pure investors. Indeed, Socialist Realism has remained one of the few areas of contemporary art yet very underrated, even for the difficulty of finding paintings that have an artistic value that bypasses the diktats imposed on painters by the Communist ideology and regime. After all, even the ancient painters had to work while trying to untangle between the whims of the rulers and the impositions of the Catholic Church and most of them were simple artisans of which no traces remain. In a similar way, it is necessary to look for the masterpiece also in Soviet art. It appears every thousand paintings, but when it appears it is a small miracle for the eyes and for the heart.”
# # #
ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE